The state’s war on dissent from radical LGBT ideology ratcheted up another gear this week as the High Court granted Birmingham City Council an injunction banning parents from protesting the controversial ‘No Outsiders’ teaching programme at Anderton Park Road primary school in the city.
The injunction comes following the decision last month by the city council to close the school early for half term on account of the protests. The No Outsiders programme has been suspended at several other Birmingham schools such as Parkfield in the past few months, but Anderton Park has so far held firm.
Labour leader of the council Ian Ward described the injunction as ‘common sense’ prevailing, saying: ‘Children right across Birmingham should be free to attend school safely and without disruption. All our schools must be safe spaces and we will not tolerate the ongoing intimidation of parents, hard-working school staff and local residents.’
Yet there is no evidence that the protests have endangered anyone’s safety or created any real disruption. As one of the leaders of the protest, Amir Ahmed, explains in relation to the earlier action at Parkfield: ‘In all our literature we made it very clear we will accept no homophobic behaviour in our campaign. We had two meetings with the police who made it clear that throughout the campaign, they found no homophobic behaviour. I asked specifically about [school teacher and No Outsiders author] Mr Moffat’s comments of being threatened. I was told that Mr Moffat felt threatened but was never threatened.’
Yet there is no evidence that the protests have endangered anyone’s safety or created any real disruption.
The early closure of Anderton Park Road School for half term now is looking increasingly like a ploy by the city council to back up its groundless claim that the protests are threatening the education and safety of staff and pupils.
Mr Ward suggested parents could still have their voices heard: ‘We’ll continue to support the school and its staff and I would urge parents to take this opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue with the school about any concerns they may have.’
But would the school take any notice of such ‘constructive dialogue’? Experience suggests not. And the latest intervention by Education Secretary Damian Hinds will do nothing to reassure parents that their concerns are being taken seriously.
‘It is not right to protest in front of schools,’ Mr Hinds said, describing the action as ‘frightening to children and disrespectful to hard working teachers.’ It is not clear how Mr Hinds knows that the protests are making children afraid, nor why he thinks that protesting controversial teaching materials should be taken as a slight to teachers.
Perhaps he thinks protests outside Parliament should also be banned because they are disrespectful to hardworking politicians? Come to think of it, all protests criticise something, and someone might take them personally, so why not just ban them all?
Mr Hinds, like Mr Ward, urges parents to return to ‘peaceful and constructive discussions with staff,’ saying ‘parents should share their views and concerns, and schools should listen.’
However, he is clear about the limits of this listening, underlining that he trusts ‘head teachers to make decisions in the interests of their pupils,’ and that ‘what is taught and how is ultimately a decision for schools.’ For the avoidance of doubt: ‘Consultation does not mean parents have a veto on curriculum content.’
Indeed, Mr Hinds – which is why parents are having to resort to protesting, since head teachers who think they know better than them what is good for their children are more than happy to ride roughshod over their concerns.
Such an agenda goes well beyond live and let live.
Mr Hinds repeats the central dogma of progressive ideology, that ‘there is no reason why teaching children about the society that we live in and the different types of loving, healthy relationships that exist cannot be done in a way that respects everyone.’
But there is if this involves teaching children as young as four about the ins and outs of same-sex relationships and transgenderism, and that such relationships and identities are morally acceptable, and encouraging them to consider them for themselves – which is precisely what programmes like ‘No Outsiders’ are designed to do.
As the introduction to ‘No Outsiders’ explains, its purpose is to teach respect for ‘different types of families, relationships and sexual identities, including same-sex relationships and transgender.’
It adds that we need to teach children that ‘to be a person who is gay or lesbian or transgender or bi-sexual is normal, acceptable and ok. Children also need to be learning that they may identify or may not identify as LGBT as they grow up, and that whoever they grow into as an adult is also perfectly normal and acceptable.’
The problem with this is that it runs entirely counter to the traditional teaching of most major religions, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Its anthropology is also very novel and dubious, since it suggests that human beings are not constituted as biologically male or female and that this is not integral to their role in parenthood and their normal relationship to the opposite sex.
Such an agenda goes well beyond live and let live. It is an effort to set aside religious objections to radical LGBT ideas and teach them to children regardless. As Mr Ahmed explains: ‘In many areas in society we may hold to different moral values but can still live together with mutual respect and tolerance. That is what British values is about.’
But, he adds, what Mr Moffat ‘requires now is acceptance, that is to say, we drop our moral values and accept his moral position on sexuality. That is what he has wished upon our children.’
‘No Outsiders’ claims to be teaching only the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. But the Equality Act does not require people to ‘respect’ same-sex relationships or families or transgender identities – the word ‘respect’ does not appear in the legislation in that sense at all. Nor does it require a person to regard homosexuality or transgenderism as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ – also words that do not appear in the legal text.
Its anthropology is also very novel and dubious.
The Act only mandates non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment (among nine protected characteristics) in areas like employment, admissions and commerce. It also mandates a (somewhat vague) public sector duty to promote equality. However, nowhere does it attempt to regulate people’s opinions on sexuality or transgenderism, or ban the holding or teaching of traditional sexual morality. Furthermore, the content of a school’s curriculum is expressly exempted from its purview.
To claim that the Equality Act requires promoting LGBT lifestyles in schools is either misinformed or, as Mr Ahmed puts it, ‘disingenuous’. Even under the highly contentious new RSE regulations and guidance there is no requirement to teach LGBT issues in primary schools. Schools are supposed to be responsive to parents’ views and concerns, who retain a basic right under the Human Rights Act 1998 to ensure that their children are educated in line with their religious and philosophical convictions.. If the state is going to start throwing its weight around to crush unhappy parents then we can expect this all to get very messy indeed.
At this stage the injunction is only an interim measure and a judge will consider the matter properly on 10 June. Let us hope that at that point our basic freedoms of speech, expression and assembly are upheld, and not sacrificed once more to seemingly insatiable progressive ideology. In the meantime, I understand that the protests will continue outside of the restricted zone and pressure on the school will be sustained or protestors will engage in civil disobedience and risk being arrested.
(Dr Will Jones is a maths graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present [Grove, 2017]. He blogs at Faith and Politics)